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CDU plan to redress Indigenous accounting shortage

Corrine Coombes
Corrine Coombes, a Garrwa and Yidinji woman, is set to be one of the pre-accounting program’s first students.

A new Charles Darwin University initiative aims to make a serious difference to the number of Indigenous accountants working across the Northern Territory and Australia.

The program is a partnership between CDU, industry and employers that will support Indigenous students to undertake introductory studies and build leadership skills, leading to further university education and formal qualifications in accounting.

CDU’s Asia Pacific College of Business and Law Assistant Dean Global and Engagement, Dr Aggie Wegner said about 50 self-identified registered Indigenous accountants were working across Australia compared with around 200,000 non-Indigenous accountants.

“Without a doubt there is a clear need for universities to support more Indigenous students to give accounting studies a go,” she said.

Dr Wegner, who is coordinating the program together with Lecturer Dr Guzyal Hill, said the program would give students the ability and confidence to develop their skills, progress in their careers and make a difference in their communities.

“There is a stereotype that accounting is simply about numbers,” Dr Wegner said. “In reality, accounting is much more varied, and often forms the basis for business development, entrepreneurship and good governance. Good accounting is about telling and conveying a story.

 “We know many Indigenous people are already highly skilled and working in finance positions, particularly within Aboriginal corporations.

“This program will allow people to gain extra qualifications and career opportunities or provide interested students with an idea of what working in accounting can look like.”

The Indigenous pre-accounting enabling program has two components: a four-week full-time intensive delivered on-campus and an ongoing individual and group mentoring component for the duration of their university course.

Mabunji Finance Manager Corrine Coombes, a Garrwa and Yidinji woman, is set to be one of the pre-accounting program’s first students.

Based in Borroloola, about 970km south east of Darwin, Corrine will be sponsored by Mabunji and industry partner Deloitte to take part in the new program.

When approached with the opportunity to undertake further study, Corrine said her answer was “straight away yes”.

“For myself, as an Indigenous person, I want to show other people that these are skills anyone can achieve and that opportunities are out there,” she said.

“We need more Indigenous people in finance and accounting, and I’m hoping I’ll be a role model for a lot of young women and men in Borroloola.”

One of the key aspects of the new program is the collaboration between CDU, industry and employers to support students to enter and complete the program.

Deloitte’s Suzanne Archbold, who has worked closely with Corinne throughout her finance career, said it was critical to support more Indigenous students to consider accounting and finance-based careers.

“If we can assist Corinne and others to further their education the impact to the organisation, and more broadly to the community, will be immense,” she said.

“CDU’s new program will give people a touchpoint with the university and gives those interested an opportunity to begin tertiary studies, which might ordinarily be quite daunting.”

CDU is in the process of identifying partners and collaborators as well as potential students for the Indigenous pre-accounting enabling program which is expected to run later this year.

For more information about the 2020 intake or to become involved, contact Dr Wegner (Aggie.Wegner@cdu. or Dr Hill (

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